The Sinai Peninsula has always been Egyptian territory.
""For Pharaoh will say of the sons of Israel, 'They are wandering aimlessly in the land; the wilderness has shut them in.'" Exodus 14:3
When was Israel "out of Egypt"?
Only when they crossing the Red Sea at the Straits of Tiran!
The modern Sinai Peninsula has always been controlled by Egypt as far east as the Wadi el-Arish.
The Sinai Peninsula is called "The Wilderness of Egypt" The Bible says that there was a long journey through the wilderness BEFORE they reached the Red Sea. (Ezekiel 20:36; Judges 11:16; Exodus 13:18). In 50 AD, Philo of Alexandria understood this and wrote: "a long and desolate journey through the wilderness, destitute of any beaten road, at last arrived at the sea which is called the Red Sea". There is no wilderness west of the bitter lakes or north west of the Gulf of Aqaba, so they must be rejected.
Even Pharoah new they were still "in the land of Egypt" at the shores of the Straits of Tiran: "For Pharaoh will say of the sons of Israel, 'They are wandering aimlessly in the land; the wilderness has shut them in." Exodus 14:3
The modern Sinai Peninsula has an unfortunate name. It is called Sinai because in 325 AD, Constantine's mother, Queen Helena saw in a night vision that Mt. Sinai was at Mt. Musa. She built St. Catherine's Monastery and this has been the almost universal choice for Mt. Sinai ever since. Apart of the fact that it is almost impossible for Mt. Musa to be the real Mt. Sinai, we still need to understand that what is called the Sinai Peninsula today, has been Egyptian controlled territory from the time of Abraham in 2000 BC down to the time of Jesus.
The border of Egypt has really not changed in 4000 years, being the wadi-El-Arish or the River of Egypt. The modern Sinai Peninsula has always been under Egypt's control, except for the brief time after Rome annexed it in 106 AD and called it Arabia.
See study of Timna. "Although there is sufficient evidence in Egyptian sources for Ramesside (1250 BC) military campaigns in the Negev, Edom and the Arabah, the Hathor Temple of Timna provides the first archaeological evidence for actual and lengthy Egyptian control of this area." (Timna, Beno Rothenberg, 1969 AD) .
Some vainly attempt to refute the fact that Israel crossed the Red Sea at the Straits of Tiran, by misusing these Bible verses: "I brought your fathers out of Egypt, and you came to the sea; and Egypt pursued your fathers with chariots and horsemen to the Red Sea. " Joshua 24:6 and "And on that same day [the day the left Goshen] the Lord brought the sons of Israel out of the land of Egypt by their hosts." Exodus 12:51. The argument goes like this: Exodus 12:51 says that Israel was "out of Egypt" the moment they left Goshen. Therefore the Sinai Peninsula cannot be part of the land of Egypt. Further, Joshua 24:6 says that Israel was "out of the land of Egypt" when they stood at the shores of the Red Sea. Therefore they were out of Egypt the entire time they were at Mt. Musa (modern Mt. Sinai) which is in the middle of the Sinai Peninsula.
These sloppy Bible students have chosen either the Bitter lakes or the north end of the Gulf of Suez as the crossing of the Red Sea. For them it is critical that the Sinai Peninsula, NOT be under Egyptian control. How else could they keep their Mt. Sinai at St. Catherine's Monastery in the middle of the Sinai Peninsula? So they blindly ignore the fact that the entire "Sinai" was part of the land of Egypt at the time of the Exodus in 1446 BC.
But by engaging in sloppy and incomplete "Bible proof texting" many passages like, Psalm 106:7-8 are never considered: "Our fathers in Egypt did not understand Your wonders; They did not remember Your abundant kindnesses, But rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea. Nevertheless He saved them for the sake of His name, That He might make His power known."
So Ps 106:7-8 clearly says that Israel was still in Egypt while they stood on the shores of the Red Sea, just before they crossed it. We have done a thorough examination of all the Bible passages on this subject and have concluded that Exodus 12:51 and Joshua 24:6 do not prove the Sinai was not part of Egypt. By saying they left Egypt in these verses, they are speaking about the moment they began the journey to leave Egypt. They stood at their front doors and started walking. In their mind they had left Egypt, even though they were not out of the city limits yet. This is all these verses are saying and we should not force an entire theology out of them.
But for those misguided advocates of a Sinai Peninsula outside the control of Egypt, you need only ask them who controlled the "Sinai". Ask them to name the country or King who controlled the Sinai at the time of the Exodus. Their answer, if they can even think of one, is "I don't know" or "no one" or "it was a barren waste land nobody wanted" or "it was a caravan crossroads between nations" or "it is kind of like asking who owns the Atlantic Ocean: everyone and no one at the same time. The Sinai Peninsula was a kind of "desert ocean" no one controlled.". The most misguided will suggest the Sinai Peninsula was part of Arabia in 1446 BC. (The Roman Annexed the "Sinai" in 106 AD... 60 years after Gal 4:25 was written. "Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia " Galatians 4:25) Yet all these are wrong. Egypt controlled the Sinai and only the ill informed would think otherwise.
For those who hold to theories proposing that historical Mt. Sinai lay on the "Sinai" peninsula, it is mandatory that some military power other than Egypt, or no one in particular, control the Sinai during the Exodus. The Sinai was not a "desert ocean, caravan crossroads, no man's land". The Sinai Peninsula was not some fuzzy waste land that nobody wanted or controlled. Rather it was firmly under the absolute military control of Egypt from the time of Abraham down to 106 AD.
A. Wadi el-Arish is the border of Egypt:
History and the Bible both prove that the wadi el-Arish was the border of Egypt:
- at the time of the exodus in 1450 BC.
- at the time of the kings 1000 - 500 BC.
- at the time of Eusebius 325 AD.
- at the time of the Madaba map in 600 AD.
- and of course today.
B. Phrase study: "out of Egypt"
Exactly what were the geographic boundaries of Egypt in the time of the Exodus? When did Israel escape from Egypt? In the end, all the discussion about Egyptian territory in 1450 BC is unimportant. As we will see, a detailed study on the phrase "out of Egypt" is no help in determining the actual territory of that the Pharaoh controlled and what he considered within his power and domain.
From a strictly language point of view, they were already out of Egypt while sleeping in Goshen before they left (Gen 50:7-8; Ex 9:25-26). They were already "out of Egypt" the first night they slept, 25 miles from Goshen. (Ex 12:51; 13:3; Deut 16:6) This of course, doesn't make any sense for those who press for the Bitter Lakes or the Gulf of Suez, since both of these areas are still clearly within Egypt in every sense. The Bitter Lakes are only 25 miles from Goshen and the Suez was only 60 miles. There was also a major Egyptian shipping port 5 miles from the proposed crossing point at the north tip of the Gulf of Suez. No one would rationally suggest that this was "out of Egypt". So it is clear, that from a civil point of view, they had "left Egypt", their civil residences, the moment they started walking. Understanding this, it is easy to understand this language while they stood on the shores of the Red Sea at the Straits of Tiran with the Egyptian army 1/4 mile away: "Is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you dealt with us in this way, bringing us out of Egypt?" Exodus 14:11. Ya! They sure were out of Egypt by the Red Sea... with the entire army of Egypt ready to kill them. Not until they crossed were they physically out of Egypt's reach.
But we believe that the most important moment they were free from Egyptian control is at the crossing of the Red sea. Arguing over Egyptian Territory in 1450 BC is irrelevant considering the fact that even the Straits of Tiran at the Gulf of Aqaba was within striking distance for Pharaoh. Egypt had a migdol "military watchtower" permanently manned with lookouts at the three way intersection of waterways at the Straits of Tiran. While Pharaoh's lookouts watched, Israel marched past "Midgol" to Etham, only to be boxed in and turn back again and camp right in front of the military watchtower (the migdol). Word was sent to Pharaoh by messenger pigeon that Israel was shut into the wilderness and they were trapped by the mountains and the sea. Pharaoh sent his army to their watery destruction while Israel escaped to the shores of the wilderness of Shur near Midian and on to Mt. Sinai 20 days later.
C. Phrase study: "land of Egypt"
The term "land" designates the local town where they slept at night in their own houses: Gen 50:7-8 "So Joseph went up to bury his father, and with him went up all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his household and all the elders of the land of Egypt, and all the household of Joseph and his brothers and his father's household; they left only their little ones and their flocks and their herds in the land of Goshen. " ; Exodus 9:25-26 "The hail struck all that was in the field through all the land of Egypt, both man and beast; the hail also struck every plant of the field and shattered every tree of the field. Only in the land of Goshen, where the sons of Israel were, there was no hail."
"So the Lord shifted the wind to a very strong west wind which took up the locusts and drove them into the Red Sea [Gulf of Aqaba] not one locust was left in all the territory of Egypt. " Exodus 10:19
Quite often in the Bible the expression "land of" denotes local towns within the same country: The "land of Goshen" and "land of Egypt" are both within the Country of Egypt and under Pharaoh's control: Gen 50:7-8; Ex 9:25-26, Num 32:1. In these three verses "land of" denotes local "states or provinces" within the country of Egypt. Today we would say, "He left the land of Tennessee to live in the land of New York.
In the same way we notice that the land of Goshen was a city suburb within the country of Egypt. The Hebrews and Egyptians were living in two distinct city areas yet both were called "lands". The Land (local district) of Goshen was within the Land (Country) of Egypt. But the term "land of Egypt" also denotes the local city suburbs where the Hebrews did not live, as opposed to the land of Goshen. So the terms here are used to designate local tribal type boundaries not distinct countries.
This verse shows that three days in the wilderness was not within the land of Egypt. But even here "out of Egypt" means, away from the visual presence of the Egyptians when they do their sacrificing. "Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron and said, "Go, sacrifice to your God within the land." But Moses said, "It is not right to do so, for we will sacrifice to the Lord our God what is an abomination to the Egyptians. If we sacrifice what is an abomination to the Egyptians before their eyes, will they not then stone us? "We must go a three days' journey into the wilderness and sacrifice to the Lord our God as He commands us." Pharaoh said, "I will let you go, that you may sacrifice to the Lord your God in the wilderness; only you shall not go very far away. Make supplication for me." " Exodus 8:25-28
"'I brought your fathers out of Egypt, and you came to the sea; and Egypt pursued your fathers with chariots and horsemen to the Red Sea. " Joshua 24:6
"And on that same day [the day the left Goshen] the Lord brought the sons of Israel out of the land of Egypt by their hosts." Exodus 12:51
"but at the place where the Lord your God chooses to establish His name, you shall sacrifice the Passover in the evening at sunset, at the time [the day the left Goshen] that you came out of Egypt. " Deuteronomy 16:6
"Moses said to the people, "Remember this day [the day the left Goshen] in which you went out from Egypt, from the house of slavery; for by a powerful hand the Lord brought you out from this place. And nothing leavened shall be eaten. " Exodus 13:3
"You shall tell your son on that day, saying, 'It is because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.' "And it shall serve as a sign to you on your hand, and as a reminder on your forehead, that the law of the Lord may be in your mouth; for with a powerful hand the Lord brought you out of Egypt. " Exodus 13:8-9
"They baked the dough which they had brought out of Egypt into cakes of unleavened bread. For it had not become leavened, since they were driven out of Egypt and could not delay, nor had they prepared any provisions for themselves. " Exodus 12:39
At the shores of the Red Sea the people cried: "Then they said to Moses, "Is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you dealt with us in this way, bringing us out of Egypt?" Exodus 14:11. This verse is used by some to say they were still in Egypt at the Red Sea. In fact the Psalmist clearly tells us that they were still in Egypt: "Our fathers in Egypt did not understand Your wonders; They did not remember Your abundant kindnesses, But rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea. Nevertheless He saved them for the sake of His name, That He might make His power known. " Psalm 106:7-8. Exodus 14:11 is simply saying that they had left the city where they lived in comfort and are in a desolate part of that same country. Just another example of the same phraseology that they left Egypt the moment they were outside the city limits of Goshen.
"'You shall also observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this very day [the day they left Goshen] I brought your hosts out of the land of Egypt; therefore you shall observe this day throughout your generations as a permanent ordinance. " Exodus 12:17
D. Bitter lakes and Port of Suez crossing controlled by Egypt and cannot be the Red Sea crossing point.
The Bitter Lake's were so close to Goshen (30 km) that it was likely the Hebrew's fishing hole on their days off. A huge fresh water lake like the Bitter lake, would surely be controlled by Egypt on all sides. The shallow bitter lakes are the choice of Bible skeptics who attempt to explain the crossing of the Red Sea without any miracles. pharaoh
The North Suez crossing is equally unlikely since the Hebrews would not waste any time rejoicing on the far side, they would keep running at full speed. After all they were only 10 km away from one of Egypt's largest shipping terminals and only 100 km from Goshen. You would not rejoice, you would run!
To the average Hebrew, freedom from Egypt only came when they crossed the Straits of Tiran and entered modern Saudi Arabia which was the only crossing point that provided geographic security from Pharaoh.
When you see how close the Bitter lakes and North Suez crossing are to Egypt, then consider they controlled mines all the way to Timna north east of Elat, it becomes silly to think that Israel was out of Egypt's control after crossing at the Bitter lakes or port of Suez.
The crossing point of the Red Sea was the Straits of Tiran.
The Sinai Peninsula has been under the military control of Egypt from the time of Abraham 2000 BC, the Exodus 1446 BC right down to the time Rome Annexed it in 106 AD.
The phrase, "out of Egypt" is used both at the city limits of Goshen and at the shores of the Red Sea, yet both were within the military control of Egypt. Land of Egypt is distinguished from the land of Goshen, yet both are inside of Egypt proper.
The Bible clearly says that Israel was still in Egypt when they rebelled on the shores of the Red Sea at the Straits of Tiran. "Our fathers in Egypt did not understand Your wonders; They did not remember Your abundant kindnesses, But rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea. Nevertheless He saved them for the sake of His name, That He might make His power known. " Psalm 106:7-8
Since the Sinai Peninsula is "in Egypt" only a crossing at the Straits of Tiran would truly complete the exodus from Egypt. The idea of a Red Sea crossing at the Bitter lakes or the North end of the Gulf of Suez is 100 km from the throne of the Pharaoh.
A Mt. Sinai located at Mt. Musa where St. Catherine's Monastery was built in 527 AD, becomes equally impossible. Mt. Sinai is in north Saudi Arabia at Mt. Lawz.
By Steve Rudd: Contact the author for comments, input or corrections.
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